Saturday, August 29, 2009

Ketching up

In some ways, our kids have begun to finally eat in earnest, for they have found ketchup.

So far, we've restricted it mostly to potato things — Crispy Crowns and such. But tonight I noticed they dunked their chicken into it, so I think we're probably off and running.

Realizing this, I decided to find a recipe of my own, and I did rather quickly in Chris Schlesinger and John Willoughby's License to Grill. I've been grilling out of this baby for years. In fact, I think I've made this ketchup before, you know, as a kind of curiosity. But, now, I'm doing it with feeling.

Here are the ingredients and what they mean to me:

2 tablespoons vegetable oil — I use olive whenever and wherever I can, settling my young stallions off on the road to Mediterranean goodness. For this recipe, omit your best extra-virgins.
1 yellow onion, peeled and diced small — Onions are a trick, in anything, but ketchup is the one place they won't know what hit ’em.
2 tablespoons minced garlic — Ditto.
2 medium tomatoes, cored and diced medium — Fresh in summer, canned in winter. A good time to try all the new San Marzano brands hitting the market shelves.
1 cup tomato puree — Umami for flavor, vitamin C for health.
1 cup white vinegar — After tasting, I was sure this would create revolt. But no. They ate it up, with relish. I might sub next time with cider vinegar. And, for the adult version, a decent balsamic. Maybe half that, half white.
1/2 cup water — To thin.
1/3 cup raisins — Our lads have been eating dried grapes since first breath. If they start balking, I'm going to drop the raisin card on them. "Raisins? In here?" "Dang straight, smallman!"
1/2 cup molasses — If I introduce it now, however subtly, maybe it'll stick. Molasses is a tough-to-come-by flavor for a kid. And we all have a bit of kid in us.
1/4 cup lightly packed brown sugar — How sweet it is, but not as much as storebought. Use Sucanat here, if you have it.
14 to 16 dashes Worcestershire sauce — 15. Aim for the middle. What's a dash, more or less, anyway? I can't even explain the quantified measurements to them.
Pinch of ground cloves or mace — Mace always sounds to me like a weapon. I keep it around about like I do handguns. Cloves, in a pinch.
Salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste – Their taste for pepper is slight. Salt, I went easy, about a tablespoon. It could tweak up a bit, methinks.

You saute the onions in the oil until transparent, then toss in the garlic and push around until fragrant. Then you pour in the rest and bring to a boil. Simmer for one hour and blend. I'll let you know how it freezes. (Any canners out there?) It tastes gorgeous, and barely kid-friendly.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Like butter

"Apple butter?" Winston said, picking over the assorted vials of jams. "Where's strawberry?"

Apple butter has, of course, no butter. It's buttery, though, from the smoothness achieved from a slow reduction of the pulp and juices, the way a caramel is smooth (though not that smooth).

Apple butter will last on a shelf longer than applesauce. The former also packs more flavor than the latter. Apple butter is kind of like apple roux.

Apple butter tastes good, on toast, with butter.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Etouffee day

Made a dish tonight that I hadn't made in five years, easy: chicken etouffee, a la Paul Prudhomme.

Actually, not so a la. I learned long ago to knock the butter back by about 60 percent, a fact Chef Paul himself figured out in part back in the mid-90s. My favorite sort of novelty part of making etouffee was throwing in the two sticks of butter, watching one of them float to a Valdez slick on the surface, then reading the instructions: "Skim surface of excess fat." It was Dadaist.

Nothing soils a kitchen like etouffee. You don't need a kitchen — you need a bonfire, a cauldron, and a witch doctor. Drinking wine while eating etouffee is like administering an IV. Without the tannic red to scour me insides, I'd probably be prone right now, versus posting.

I made it because, why, I don't know. I missed it. This will either make sense, or it won't.